Bharat Venkat

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Oregon, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9321

Approve Date

October 4, 2016

Project Title

Venkat, Dr. Bharat J., U. of Oregon, Eugene, OR - To aid research and writing on 'India after Antibiotics: Tuberculosis at the Limits of Cure' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Preliminary abstract: In 2011, the first cases of an ‘incurable’ form of tuberculosis were identified in India, inciting speculations that a limit had been reached — a limit to an antibiotic cure, and potentially, to the antibiotic era. Entering into these conversations about our collective therapeutic futures, my book project, India after Antibiotics: Tuberculosis at the Limits of Cure, offers an ethnographic and historical study of tuberculosis treatment in India from 1860 to the present. This work asks specifically about what it means to be cured, and what it means for a cure to come undone. In the scholarly and popular imagination, cure tends to be conceived of as the end-point of illness. Such an understanding of cure fails to account for the ways in which cure can unravel across multiple scales as bacteria mutate, patients relapse, new evidentiary procedures solidify and therapeutic paradigms shift. Rather than assuming a singular and static idea of cure, India after Antibiotics draws on 23 months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in India from 2011–2015, as well as extensive archival research and oral histories, to argue that ‘cure’ itself is a mutable concept. This work situates ideas and practices of cure within colonial and postcolonial histories of therapeutic possibilities, from travel and natural healing to sanatorium care and antibiotic treatment. I focus in particular on the contentious debates that have surrounded these various therapeutic forms, ranging from indignation over the colonial government’s selective support of curative migration for white soldiers to more recent controversies regarding the distribution of novel antibiotics in India given the risk of exhausting these latest tools in the therapeutic armamentarium. My work suggests that the task of envisioning a post-antibiotic future requires imagining what forms cure might take, and for whom.